While the Global Ocean Race fleet leaders are approaching the blueQube Scoring Gate, located in the middle of the Pacific, Conrad Coleman and Adrian Kuttel continue to push hard on their Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation, sustaining averages of more than fourteen knots and pulling away from Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon on Financial Crisis.
Furthest north, in third place, the South Africans on Phesheya-Racing are timing their route to hook into the favourable breeze as Cyclone Cyril rumbles south-east into the Roaring Forties, while over 2,000 miles to the west, both Buckley Systems and Campagne de France have made landfall in New Zealand.
Despite their isolation 800 miles north-west of Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire have company at 42S as the VHF on Phesheya-Racing burst into life. 'I dashed out the hatch to see if I could see another vessel, but there was nothing in sight!' reported Hutton-Squire early on Thursday morning. 'Nick got chatting to this boat that is fishing for tuna on long lines.' The 80ft boat, F/V Betty H, was from Hawaii spending three months fishing before returning via Tahiti to off load their fish. 'Next time you have tuna, think about how far it has travelled to your plate!' she adds.
The South Africans continued chatting with the Betty H – crewed by five fishermen and three dogs: 'The skipper told us in the old days he used to listen to the Whitbread boats on the VHF talking about spinnakers and losing masts,' Hutton-Squire continues. 'They said they also thought that the weather is very unusual.'
On Thursday afternoon GMT, Phesheya-Racing was making 7.6-knot averages keeping to their northern route and the plan of intercepting Cyclone Cyril. 'If we stay north we will get into northerly wind faster and be able to sail downwind,' predicts the South African skipper. 'The boat is going much better as the sea state has also improved,' she confirms.
As spirits are raised on Phesheya-Racing following a relentless upwind hammering, heaving-to on two occasions and dealing with serious pilot problems, the sudden, unexpected proximity of humanity so far from land is an added bonus: 'It was very reassuring to know that we are not alone down here,' admits Hutton-Squire. 'Especially since we have been having so many problems,' she adds. 'Betty H wanted to know if we needed anything and the only thing I asked for was a sense of humour…..they laughed, but they were willing to help us out if need be. Wonderful to know seamen like that!'
Meanwhile, Colman and Kuttel are pushing to break the GOR 24-hour speed record of 359 miles on Cessna Citation, averaging over 14 knots for six hours and dropping back to 13.4 knots at 15:00 GMT on Thursday in westerlies from a deep low pressure system centred 850 miles to the south at 64S. Trailing Colman and Kuttel by 169 miles, Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon are forcing speed from Financial Crisis and hit 10.3 knots at 15:00 GMT, but have dropped back 68 miles behind Cessna Citation in the past 24 hours.
Although the strongest winds in the southerly low pressure system will miss the GOR leaders, there are strong headwinds forecast as the two southerly boats approach the mid-Pacific Ocean scoring gate. Consequently, the GOR Race Committee has changed the location of the southern waypoint to avoid further punishment for boats that have already endured a week of beating.
'We are very aware that Cessna Citation and Financial Crisis in particular have passed the main area of known icebergs to the west of the bluQube Scoring Gate, but could potentially suffer from further severe headwinds during their final approach the gate,' explains GOR Race Director, Josh Hall.
We would not have contemplated making this change even 24 hours ago and would have sat it out until the teams were clear of ice fields,' he adds.
In accordance with the GOR’s Sailing Instructions, the GOR Race Committee has decided to move the southern point of the bluQube Scoring Gate from 47S to 50S. 'If any boat feels they have been disadvantaged, they can obviously apply for redress, which would be dealt with by the GOR’s International Jury, but our priority right now is the safety of the skippers and the boats,' says Hall.
The Class40s may still encounter ice at any time during Leg 3 and Hall has recommended that the teams continue to maintain a good lookout using all appropriate means, including radar. Leading the fleet, Cessna Citation was 150 miles from taking maximum points at the bluQube Scoring Gate at 15:00 GMT.
Back in New Zealand, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron have moored Campagne de France in Auckland and Ross and Campbell Field stopped briefly in Tauranga. 'A quick nap and the friendly local Customs Officer arrived to clear us back in to NZ,' reported Campbell Field on Thursday morning.
At the same time, Ross Field’s wife and two cousins appeared: 'Jan, Bruce and Cam walked down the dock armed with a long black and a flat white,' Campbell continues. 'Just what we needed.' Ross Field showered and was then driven to a back specialist as his son and nephews sail Buckley Systems on to Auckland.
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 9/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 3780 13.4kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 169 10.3kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 868 7.6kts
Global Ocean Race website